The Archaeological Survey of India has asked for a 15-day extension to file its report on the ‘scientific survey’ of the Gyanvapi mosque complex. The survey itself – ordered by a Varanasi court, to check if the mosque was built over a Hindu temple, and carried over a 100-day period – has been completed.
The Varanasi court is scheduled to hear the plea for a second extension at 2 pm.
The archaeological body – due to submit its report last Monday – had been given one extension on November 2. The court was told ASI officials needed more time to compile the survey findings.
The ASI had carried out the ‘scientific survey’ of the mosque premises, which is located next to the iconic Kashi Vishwanath Temple, to see if the 17th century mosque was built over a Hindu temple.
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The survey began after the Allahabad High Court upheld the Varanasi court order on the same and ruled it “necessary in the interest of justice”. The court said it would benefit both sides.
During an earlier hearing, the mosque management objected to the survey, alleging the ASI was digging in the basement, as well as other places in the complex, without permission and that it was accumulating debris against the structure’s western wall, which risked its collapse.
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The ASI was not authorised to survey premises by removing debris or garbage, the panel said.
The mosque committee had also moved the Supreme Court against the Allahabad High Court’s order, but the top court, on August 4, refused to stay the High Court’s order on the survey.
A bench led by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud, however, asked the ASI to refrain from invasive acts during the survey. This ruled out excavations, which the Varanasi court said could be conducted.
The top court stressed that “non-invasive” methods had to be employed.
In August 2021, five Hindu women filed a plea for prayers at the Shringar Gauri shrine, which is inside the mosque complex. Hindu activists claim a temple existed earlier – where the mosque now stands – and was demolished in the 17th century on the order of Mughal emperor Aurangzeb.
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